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Meanwell is a twenty-four poem sequence in which a female servant searches for identity and meaning in the shadow of her mistress, poet Anne Bradstreet. Although Meanwell herself is a fiction, someone like her could easily have existed among Bradstreet’s known but unnamed domestic servants. Through Meanwell’s eyes, Bradstreet emerges as a human figure during The Great Migration of the 1600s, a period in which the Massachusetts Bay Colony was fraught with physical and political dangers. Through Meanwell, the feelings of women, silenced during the midwife Anne Hutchinson’s fiery trial before the Puritan ministers, are finally acknowledged. In effect, the poems are about the making of an American rebel.  Through her conflicted conscience, we witness Meanwell’s transformation from a powerless English waif to a mythic American who ultimately chooses wilderness over the civilization she has experienced.

About the Author

Janice Miller Potter’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Poet Lore, Connecticut Review, Worcester Review, Adirondack Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Snowy Egret, Words & Images, roger, Café Review, The Salon, Aurorean, Animus, Diner, Blue Collar Review, Ruah, Christian Science Monitor, Larcom Review, Dusty Dog, and The Pittsburgh Quarterly which awarded her its Sara Henderson Hay Prize for Poetry in 2005. Her poems have been anthologized in Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont; Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets; Overtime: Punchin’ Out with the Mill Hunk Herald and elsewhere. Her Arthurian long-poem, “The Swans of Camelot”, appears on-line as part of The Camelot Project of the University of Rochester. A poet of place, she conjures up the world of her western Pennsylvania childhood in her chapbook, Psalms in Time (Finishing Line, 2008). In her current volume, Meanwell, she looks to the distant past of New England, where she has spent most of her life. She lives in Cornwall, Vermont with her husband.

Essay on Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “In Memory of My Dear Grandchild”

Review by Patrick Gillespie on his blog PoemShape